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US Department of Education Features Red Hawks Rising

Teacher Academy receives national recognition on #InnovatED online series

Posted in: Education, Homepage News

Melissa de Almeida
Melissa De Almeida, 17, a senior at East Side High School in Newark’s Ironbound district, wants to return to teach there.

Montclair State University’s Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy has been featured on #InnovatED, an online video series produced by the United States Department of Education (USDOE). 

#InnovatED provides an in-depth look at how schools are evolving their curriculums to match the needs of students. The series is distributed via the USDOE’s social media platforms, including Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s personal accounts

In partnership with the Newark Board of Education and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy is a groundbreaking collaboration that allows students enrolled in East Side or University High School to take college-level courses, at no cost, that will apply toward a degree at Montclair. 

Students in the program will also receive stipends of $3,700 from AFT to help offset education-related costs and ensure their progression in the program. When they graduate from high school, Red Hawks Rising students will receive a preliminary contract to return to Newark to teach upon completion of their Montclair degree. 

The goal is to create a pipeline of diverse teachers that will return to their hometowns to teach in the schools in which they learned – the epitome of serving the public good. And now, the innovative initiative has received well-deserved national recognition. 

President Jonathan Koppell speaks with Teacher Academy students (seated, L to R) Aniya Mahfood Shockness, Melissa De Almeida, and Liz Guman
President Jonathan Koppell speaks with Teacher Academy students (seated, L to R) Aniya Mahfood Shockness, 15, Melissa De Almeida, 17, and Liz Guman, 17, who said the stipends will come in handy and expressed gratitude for the support and confidence of their teachers and all of the education officials.

“Having this opportunity to support young teachers into the profession and then bringing back their knowledge is such a powerful testament to the kind of justice work that I’m committed to,” said Montclair Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning and Co-Leader of the Academy Mayida Zaal. Zaal leads the program with Danielle Epps, the director of Teacher Education Admissions, Recruitment and Diversity at Montclair’s Center of Pedagogy.

“I had such great teachers when I was younger, and they influenced me so much. I strive to be like them and be able to do that for other kids,” said Melissa De Almeida, a senior at East Side and a member of the program, told Montclair magazine. “As someone who wants to become a teacher and loves kids, this program is such a great opportunity. I’ve always dreamed of coming back to teach in Newark because to me, Newark is home.” 

Hosted by USDOE Office of Communications and Outreach Senior Advisor Lynda Lopez, the #InnovatED story showcases the Academy and features interviews with Zaal, De Almeida, Newark Superintendent Roger León ’96 MA, East Side High School Principal Mario Santos and East Side High School teacher Erika Plumey.

“Having students of color assuming teaching roles in our schools is extremely important,” said León. “What better way of growing our own than actually growing our own?”

“It’s the idea of helping teachers become the teachers I needed as a kid,” Plumey said in the piece. “Teaching our kids to think for themselves, that they have a seat at the table, and that they can come back and teach the next generation, it’s important. It’s part of the conversation that needs to take place.”

To read more about the Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy, see our story, which appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Montclair magazine.